In this series, the Chronicle follows seven riders as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams in London 2012.
[Indigo] got the week after the USEF show jumping selection trials off—I think he earned it after those four rounds. [Engle and Indigo finished the trials in second place, with just 12 faults, and secured the second spot on the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s show jumping long list for the London Olympics.]
We had the vet out, and he seems fine; he seems fresh and ready to go. I’ve shown him very lightly over the last four or five months, so hopefully it’s paying off.
I thought the third round [in the selection trials, on March 23] was very big—it was probably one of the biggest courses I’ve jumped, normally not one you would see jumping two days in a row and two rounds in a day; it was large. It was more the type of course you would see in the individual [Olympic competition] after a day off or when the top 20 come back. When I was walking the course, all I kept thinking was that I’m glad that I’m sitting on the horse I’m sitting on. I wouldn’t want to be sitting on one with a shorter scope or one who was getting a little fatigued at that point, because it was quite big.
Like I said last time, we face detours sometimes. You say “the road to the Olympics,” and then there are quite a few detours along the way that you just can’t help. I’ve had him for two years, and I’ve never had any injuries at all with him, and then he got a bruised heel a couple weeks [before the trials]. I had planned to do the World Cup class in Week 6 and give him off until Nations Cup week, and then when we came into it, he had a bruised heel. I don’t know how he got it. I think the shoe might have shifted a little on his heel. We took the shoe off and put on a new one, but because of the deep bruising, he ended up getting an abscess. So that ended up changing our plans.
When he had the abscess, I tried to do as little as possible, so I’d left him too fresh for that class. [Engle fell in the first round of the Nations Cup on March 2 when Indigo spooked at a liverpool. They returned for Round 2 and posted 8 faults]. It was much better that week because it was working its way through, but we didn’t know he was getting an abscess until the show was over. We just thought he had a bruised heel, but when we finished that week, that was when it was starting to come through. And once it did, I was able to work him down a little better, so he was fine physically as far as me preparing him for the trials. I just worried he wasn’t jumping fit because he’d had some time off.
As soon as the abscess came through, he was completely sound. The vets and blacksmith and my groom, they were working on him around the clock, soaking and packing his foot. The main concern was just that he wasn’t jumping fit enough to do it. I know he has plenty of energy, and he’s got stamina; I never get to the bottom of him, and mentally he’s always ready to go. He gets up for whatever he’s going into. He’s very enthusiastic, and he gets psyched up.
He just really showed how much drive he has by coming through. He came out, especially on Saturday night, like he hadn’t done anything for weeks. He was completely fresh and ready to go, and Sunday morning, he acted like he’d done nothing. It just shows the heart and spunk he’s got.
But still, you’re thinking, “One day at a time, one jump at a time.” The horse impressed me, how he came through, and we just have to hope that everything stays together, and the plan comes through.
I never think I’m there until I’m there. It’s not over ’til it’s over. It’s not just yourself that you have to keep in shape—things like this come up and throw a monkey wrench in your plans. There are always the unforeseen things that can happen and give you a sinking feeling in your stomach, and you feel like everything you’ve worked towards all this time, trying to save him for the right classes and get him to peak at the right time, might not work out. That’s a little bit discouraging, but you know you have to keep going and keep hoping.
Now, I am changing my plans. I didn’t show him in the $500,000 FTI Consulting Grand Prix CSI***** during Week 12 because he did a lot of jumping the previous week.
I’ll just have to talk it over with [U.S. show jumping team Chef d’Equipe George Morris]. Possibly if he’s really fresh, we might still go to the Rolex FEI World Cup Finals [the Netherlands], and then the other two shows I’m planning on doing are Kentucky and Devon [Pa.] for the observation trials.
I’ll discuss my plans and talk over what [Morris] thinks would be a good plan for Indigo. We had discussed that the World Cup would have some impact [on team selection] even though it’s in an indoor ring. We still need to be a strong presence there—strong horse-and-rider combinations—so that might be an option. Even though it’s not an observation trial, it might have some impact [on being chosen for the team] because it’s a large international competition. And there’s plenty of time for them to recover after that because the Olympics are still four months away.
Everyone who is in the top 12 [on the long list] is supposed to call George to discuss what their plans are. Normally, once you are on the short and long list, you sign things kind of like a contract—you’re at the discretion of the chef d’equipe—and everything you do with your horse has to go along with the team veterinarian and there’s full disclosure of everything going on.
With every new horse you have, it’s a new goal every time, and it’s always different. And you always have new goals as your life changes and as you go on. It doesn’t make it any less exciting later in life, if anything, more so because you know you only have so much time left. I feel like Indigo is one of the best horses I’ve ever had, so I think that makes me much more enthusiastic about doing what I’m doing.
Fast Facts About Margie Engle
Hometown: Gladewinds Farm, Wellington, Fla.
Horse: Indigo, 12-year-old, gray Dutch Warmblood gelding (Indoctro—AEA Dutch Lorel), owned by Gladewinds Farm, Hidden Creek Farm, Bob and Shay Griese and Selma Garber
Engle’s U.S. Team Experience: 1999 Pan American Games (Canada)—team silver; 2000 Olympic Games (Australia)—10th place individually; 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany)—team silver
Top Finishes In 2012
- 2nd place USEF selection trials for Olympic show jumping team; tie for 1st place—$100,000 USEF National Show Jumping Championships
- 1st place $125,000 Spy Coast Farm CSI***-W (Fla.)